2007-12-21 / Letters

Closing FRHS A Mistake

Dear Editor,

I am a proud graduate of Far Rockaway High School, class of 1962. Since then, I have been watching the progress, the lack of progress from afar through the New York City newspapers, the web and your paper.

I understand that the school is no longer what it was in the 1940's and 1950's, when it turned out lots of top scholars and scholar-athletes. It is not even the school that it was when I graduated a decade later.

All schools are the reflection of the neighborhood they serve.

I recently retired from teaching in a suburban high school in southern California. While one would think that teaching in a school such as that would make for an easy career, they would be wrong.

The basic value in the community was make lots of money and then spend it by buying all the toys possible and partying hard after shopping. Drugs were rampant. Teen age promiscuity was the thing to do.

Education came well down on the list for both parents and students. Cars and drugs came ahead of education as did big homes and big-ticket jobs.

It was tough being a teacher because teachers got no respect because they did not earn lots of money.

My point is, teachers and administrators can't trump the values of the people who they serve.

The same is true, I am sure, with Rockaway, a mostly-monority community that probably values education less than my students in California, who valued it very little.

As long as the community remains the same and their values remain the same, it doesn't matter what you call the school.

Call it Harvard or Yale High School. Put in the top teachers and administrators in the city. Put in more resources than you can afford. Change the curriculum. Change the methodolgy. Change everything.

It won't matter if you don't change the community's values base.

I sometimes meet other former New Yorker's here in California and they ask where I went to high school.

Most of them went to school in Brooklyn, but they all knew of Far Rockaway High School as a top academic and sports school.

It will be sad now, when they ask, that I have to tell them that my school no longer exists, that it has become four or five schools with names that seem to extoll education, but have much more to do with politics than they do with education.

The change will mean little to the kids who go to the school. It will mean little to the parents.

The only group that will get any traction from the name change will be the politicians, who will now be able to "prove" that they have taken action to fix a "failing school."

It is not the school that is failing. It is not the teachers and the administrators who are failing.

It is the community that values guns, drugs and partying over education that is failing. It is the parents and the kids who are failing. It is the federal government and the city who look at test scores as the end-all and be-all who are failing. Changing the name of the school is not going to fix that.

PETER SEPLOWE

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